Monday 23 December 2002

Manner of Dismissal Damages - McCabe v Cornwall County Council (Court of Appeal)

The Court of Appeal has today handed down its decision in cCabe v Cornwall County Council (CA, 23rd December 2002).

Readers will be delighted to know the law on manner of dismissal remains as confused as ever, despite the valiant attempts of the Court of Appeal to analyse and distinguish the existing cases of Johnson v Unisys, Gogay v Herts County Council and Eastwood v Magnox.

All three Lord Justices (Auld, Brooke and Sedley LJJ) point to the difficulties in understanding this area of law. Sedley LJ comments on the absurdity (my word, not his!) of an employee being able to recover substantial damages at common law if his employment terminates because of psychiatric trauma caused by the implied duty of care, but as soon as the employer's conduct becomes serious enough to be a breach of trust and confidence, his leaving "becomes a matter of constructive dismissal and his loss becomes subsumed in his limited statutory rights."

The decision is worth reading, if only as a summary of the distinction the courts are drawing become breaches of trust and confidence prior and separate from dismissal, in which case it seems actions can be brought in the civil courts for substantial sums of damages, and breaches of trust and confidence prior to but bound up in dismissal, in which case the remedy is for unfair dismissal - with all the compensation caps that entails.

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